United Way is the world’s largest nonprofit organization, with 1,800 local affiliates in 40 countries. The organization’s mission is to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world to advance the common good. United Way focuses on education, income, and health, the building blocks for a good life and strong community. While often known as a business-to-business organization — working with corporate partners to mobilize employees — United Way is engaged in a shift towards becoming a stronger business-to-consumer organization. This is particularly relevant for Boomers leaving the workplace and many Millennials not yet engaged in the workplace the way that previous generations had been. As the future of United Way’s supporter base, Millennials are a key piece to United Way’s continued success.
The opportunity for United Way–forging better, longer-term, meaningful relationships with a new generation of advocates–is a huge and multi-faceted one. We designed a longitudinal approach to ensure the depth and longevity of our recommendations. Over the course of 6 months, we talked to over 650 Millennials in one-on-one conversations. We tested certain concepts at scale to gain a sense of how Millennials compared to other generations by collecting open-ended feedback from an even larger audience. This unique, hybrid research approach allowed us to offer both qualitative insights and quantitative results on key metrics.
The main objective was to understand how Millennials want to be engaged with United Way and help forge stronger relationships with this crucial audience. As this was a large audience engagement, we chose to start broad and learn as the research progressed, allowing the audience to refine the areas to explore. That said, there were a few areas that we knew were necessary to tackle with Millennials; most notably, personal communication and connection. Furthermore, we sought to understand:
- How Millennials wanted to engage with charitable organizations via mobile, if at all
- Their engagement journey with a nonprofit like United Way
- Millennials’ perceptions of United Way and their reactions to United Way programs for Millennials, such as LINC
Community matters to Millennials, but they talk about it in a completely different light than generations before them. We discovered how Millennials define community, including what language they use. By developing a deep understanding for the path to engagement with a nonprofit like United Way, we were able to determine the most impactful ways to capture Millennials’ attention and establish credibility in order to motivate them to get involved. Lastly, we gained a sense of what Millennials need to see and feel in order to want to stay involved.
United Way is well positioned among Millennials and is working to channel the passion and strong sense of purpose they have to make the world a better place. However, having a deeper understanding of how this audience defines community, how they view themselves within communities, and what kind of impact they hope to make on communities, helps United Way build stronger relationships with Millennials. The work also helps United Way tailor messaging and enhance current programs to better meet the needs of Millennials and the communities that will benefit from the audience’s philanthropic efforts. This research gave United Way learnings from which to continue to forge that path.